Confederation of British Industry (CBI) director-general John Cridland said in an interview at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, that the business community understood that it had a responsibility to help people to earn more.
“There have been a lot of conversations here about inequality having reached a point where it is not acceptable from a moral point of view and that in a commercial sense it’s bad for business,” Cridland said.
At the end of a week in which UK charity Oxfam released a report showing the richest 1 percent of people in the world are on course to own more wealth than the other 99 percent, Cridland said inequality was seen as “one of the reasons why business does not have the standing it would like to have.”
Cridland said he had made a point in Davos of promoting the CBI’s Better off Britain report, which in November last year called for firms to do more to tackle inequality by providing childcare and boosting the skills of employees.
“People were genuinely surprised and impressed about what the CBI had to say,” he said.
Cridland said that tackling inequality would benefit businesses both in terms of their reputation and commercial prospects.
“I am not sure this would have been natural territory for us five years ago,” he said.
Cridland said high pay was a problem when it was not deserved, and drew a comparison with the wages earned by soccer players.
“The ordinary person struggling to buy a ticket for a football match thinks it is OK so long as the team is successful. If the team is not successful, they wonder why they are paying so much. There is less tolerance of business if people are not doing well,” he said.
Cridland said it was up to the state to provide basic education, but it was for business to help people make progress in their careers.
“Business has to look at how it can help people up the escalator,” he said.
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